- 12 days throughout the region of Tohoku
- Luxury 18-seat Crystal Cruiser
- Nikko Tosho-Gu shrine, a Unesco World Heritage Site
- Matsushima, famous as the inspiration for notable haiku
- A one-night cruise to Hokkaido
- A ride on a popular local train
- To Akita, the traditional home of the Namahage, Japanese ogres from folklore
- Experiencing Nebuta, one of the three largest Tohoku festivals, at the Nebuta Museum
- A picture book museum, featuring works from all over the world
- A refreshing outdoor bath at Keiunkan, a hot-spring inn
- Shiratama-no-Yu: Kahou, Koshinosato Annex guest room
DAY 1｜TOCHIGI PREFECTURE
Your private coach journey across eastern Japan will begin at Tokyo main station.
Alongside an English-speaking attendant, your tour party will head to the Rinno-Ji temple, one of the 42 famous shrines and temples of Nikko, renowned as Japan’s most impressive Unesco World Heritage Site. You will also see Sanbutsudo – the Three Buddhas Hall – known both as one of the most famous buildings in the complex and as the most impressive wooden structure in the whole region, dating back to the Heian period – the eighth century CE. Afterwards, you will visit Nikko Tosho-Gu, the most famous of all Japan’s shrines. Here you will see the Three Wise Monkeys, statues which famously hear, speak and see no evil, as well as the Sleeping Cat and the Imagined Elephant.
The night you will stay at Nikko Kanaya Hotel, which preserves traditional Japanese history and culture, beloved of leading figures from Japan and outside ever since it was founded in 1873. Coach travel distance: about 182 kilometres.
Meal Breakfast Lunch Dinner Hotel Nikko Kanaya Hotel
Hotel Nikko Kanaya Hotel
DAY 2｜YAMAGATA & MIYAGI PREFECTURES
After breakfast, your private coach will whisk you across the mountains towards Yamagata prefecture. You will eat lunch at a local restaurant serving Yonezawa beef, one of the most famous brands of wagyu beef. You will then go to Matsushima in Miyagi prefecture, known for centuries as one of the three most scenic places in Japan and the subject of many famous haiku poems; more than 260 islands are scattered throughout the bay, giving rise to a splendid view of white rocks harmonizing perfectly with green pines. After a promenade on the shore of Matsushima, you will board the Taiheiyo ferry for a one-night cruise heading toward Tomakomai in Hokkaido. You’ll enjoy a buffet dinner at the restaurant on the ferry.
Meal Breakfast Lunch Dinner Hotel Taiheiyo Ferry
Hotel Taiheiyo Ferry
You will arrive at Tomakomai port in Hokkaido before noon. First on the agenda is a hands-on experience of indigo dyeing at Date, the only town in Hokkaido which produces Japanese indigo plants, learning about this crucial aspect of traditional Japanese culture.
Afterwards, the party leaves for the hot spring at Toyako. Here you will have the chance to relax at The Windsor Hotel Toya resort and spa.
Meal Breakfast Lunch Dinner Hotel The Windsor Hotel Toya resort and spa
Hotel The Windsor Hotel Toya resort and spa
After breakfast at the hotel, you start this fourth day with a visit to Silo Observatory to experience the marvellous panoramic view from the west coast of the Lake Toya.
You will then visit the Hokkaido Toyako Summit Memorial Museum, which memorialises the 34th G8 summit, where international leaders met and agreed to protect our planet’s environment in 2008. Then it’s on to lunch at the Michelin-starred restaurant Maccarina.
We have meanwhile prepared rooms at the Hakodate Kokusai Hotel on the bay in the centre of the city for a leisurely two nights stay.
Meal Breakfast Lunch Dinner Hotel Hakodate Kokusai Hotel
Hotel Hakodate Kokusai Hotel
This day is a free day, and guests are encouraged to explore the city of Hakodate at their leisure.
We recommend sampling the fresh seafood for which the region is so famous, visiting the unique star-shaped Goryokaku fort, witnessing the night-time view from Mount Hakodate, and much more.
Meal Breakfast Lunch Dinner Hotel Hakodate Kokusai Hotel
Hotel Hakodate Kokusai Hotel
DAY 6｜HOKKAIDO & AOMORI PREFECTURE
This day, we travel from Hakodate back to Japan’s main island Honshu on the Hokkaido Shinkansen bullet train. Another culinary treat awaits you in Aomori, the northernmost tip of Honshu, with Ooma tuna – a variety of bluefin known as “black diamond”. Caught in the Tsugaru Strait, this wild tuna is always numbered and strictly controlled. Every detail is monitored, from the boat landing them to when and how they are caught.
After this feast, you will visit Nebuta Museum Wa Rasse to learn about the magnificent Aomori Nebuta – one of the most famous festivals in all Japan – including its earliest history and the reasons for its enduring appeal.
Meal Breakfast Lunch Dinner Hotel Hotel Grand Mer Sankaiso
Hotel Hotel Grand Mer Sankaiso
DAY 7｜AOMORI & AKITA PREFECTURES
Boarding a local train, the tour party will then take the scenic coastal Gono Line to travel from Aomori to Akita. The train is kept deliberately slow to allow passengers to admire the Sea of Japan on one side and the dramatic Shirakami-Sanchi mountains on the other.
You will then head toward Juniko in Shirakami-Sanchi, an area of extraordinary natural beauty featuring a series of lakes of such rich blue they genuinely look like ink. After a lunch of Ito – or Japanese huchen – a species of salmon also known as “dream fish”, your next destination is the Namahage Museum at the Shinzan Shrine. Namahage are demons from Japanese folklore, and have been added to the Unesco list of intangible cultural heritage. They are said to visit once a year, during the folk festival in Akita, on New Year’s Eve, in order to bring a good harvest.
Then, after a trip to the picturesque Cape Nyudozaki, you will head toward Oga Onsenkyo, a hot-spring village, to rest your weary souls.
Meal Breakfast Lunch Dinner Hotel Tsubaki
DAY 8｜YAMAGATA PREFECTURE
Your eighth day will take you from Akita prefecture to Yamagata prefecture, in order to visit Sakata, a major producer of rice during the Edo period.
The Sankyo Soko (Sankyo warehouses) in Sakata is a complex of historic buildings designed to withstand wind and rain while loading and unloading rice, which the feature ingeniously elaborate air-conditioning controls. Twelve warehouses remain, and their rice conservation capabilities are in no way inferior to modern warehouses. One now serves as a museum. From there, you will then visit a unique jellyfish aquarium before heading toward the hot spring at Atsumi Onsen. The hotel here has served customers for 360 years, so you know you’re in for wonderful welcome.
Meal Breakfast Lunch Dinner Hotel Ryokan Tachibanaya
Hotel Ryokan Tachibanaya
DAY 9｜YAMAGATA & NIIGATA PREFECTURES
After breakfast at the hotel, there’s an excursion to the Sasagawa-Nagare coast, a national site of special scenic beauty. Chosen as one of the 100 landscapes of Japan, this beautiful coastline has a different character every season.
After your fill of the bracing sea breeze and a visit to the Kikkawa salmon store in Murakami, it’s time for a sake gozen (a salmon lunch) at Izutsuya restaurant, where the celebrated 17th century poet Matsuo Basho stayed during the journey recounted in his seminal work Oku-no-Hosomichi（The Narrow Road to the Deep North).
You will then head toward the Northern Culture Museum, remnants of the mansion owned by the Ito farming family for eight generations. This wealthy mansion is now a museum exhibiting traditional artefacts and antiques as well as archaeological and historical resources. Afterwards, you’ll relax at Shiratama-no-Yu: Kahou, at the Tsukioka Onsen.
Meal Breakfast Lunch Dinner Hotel Hotel Kahou
Hotel Hotel Kahou
DAY 10｜NIIGATA & NAGANO PREFECTURES
After a morning to yourselves, the coach will depart for Ukiyo, a traditional high-style restaurant for some delicious traditional Japanese cuisine.
Then you will visit Takada Sekaikan, the oldest movie theatre in Japan. It was opened as a playhouse in 1911 and recently celebrated its centenary as a cinema. You will then relax at the Hakuba Tokyu Hotel, a lodge located in the middle of the mountains surrounded by exceptional natural beauty.
Meal Breakfast Lunch Dinner Hotel Hakuba Tokyu Hotel
Hotel Hakuba Tokyu Hotel
DAY 11｜NAGANO & YAMANASHI PREFECTURES
After breakfast, you will visit the Chihiro Art Museum, the first picture-book museum in the world. It exhibits the works of the famous illustrator Chihiro Iwasaki, as well as many other international artists, and is set in a glorious natural environment which changes from season to season.
For lunch it’s soba gozen – buckwheat noodles – a delicacy from Nagano. You will spend the night at the Keiunkan hot-spring inn, the oldest-operating inn in the world as recognised by the Guinness World Records. Its source is the Fossa Magna rift, which crosses a wide portion of Japan, and it provides so much hot water that even the showers need no extra heating.
Meal Breakfast Lunch Dinner Hotel Keiunkan
DAY 12｜YAMANASHI PREFECTURE
This is the last day of the journey, and what better way to end than with a toast. You will visit L’Orient Wine Shirayuri Winery in Yamanashi prefecture, the only region in Japan designated for the industrial promotion of wine. The history of Yamanashi wine is the history of Japanese wine. Incredibly, special sake equipment believed to have been used during the Middle Jomon Period (5,500-5,400 years ago), has been excavated here, suggesting that people were drinking fermented grape juice even then. After a full-course meal for lunch, you will leave for Tokyo, on the last leg of your epic voyage.
Meal Breakfast Lunch Dinner Hotel